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SUBJECT: MORE COMMENTATORS QUESTION AKP FOREIGN POLICY
11_1 . (SBU) Among Turkish media commentators and academics, we are
observing an increasing tendency to question the Erdogan/Davutoglu
foreign policy's perceived goal of reorienting Turkey away from the
West towards positions and a vernacular that appeal to the "Islamic
street." Riza Turmen, a former European Court of Human Rights judge
and respected columnist, wrote in the November 6 edition of
"Milliyet" that Turkey's allies are beginning to perceive its
divergence from Western policy positions and institutions. He
attributes this divergence to a foreign policy populism that seeks
to draw energy from religious emotion. He warns that a foreign
policy based on emotion, rather than sober calculation of national
self-interest, risks introducing inconsistencies into Turkey's
positions that will quickly reduce its influence on the
international stage. President Gul ' s recent admonition to Iran that
it be fully transparent to the IAEA and senior Turkish bureaucrats '
privately expressed regret over the shabby treatment of the Israeli
ambassador during his recent tour of northeastern Turkey may be part
of gathering reaction to the excessive influence of populism on
recent Turkish foreign policy formulation.
1I_2 . (U) Begin text of Embassy translation of Riza Turmen ' s November 6
The November/December edition of "Foreign Affairs" magazine included
an article on developments in Turkish foreign policy under the title
"Turkey's Transformers". The article is especially noteworthy as it
is written by Morton Abromowitz and Henri Barkey, two prominent
foreign policy experts who are familiar with Turkey.
The article impartially reviews Turkish foreign policy. It is
critical of certain aspects of that foreign policy and finds other
aspects praiseworthy. It is useful because it shows us the
outsider's perspective at a time when foreign policy populism is on
the rise. The article puts forward the question: "Do leaders of
Turkey want to play the role of genuine policy implementers in
global politics or do they want to play the role of representatives
of Islamic culture?"
I think here lies the basic thrust of assessments of Turkish foreign
policy. Turkish foreign policy has recently been very active.
However, upon closer observation, ideological reasons for this
activity become apparent. Region always creates an energy. Turkish
foreign policy has new energy, but, as long as the source of such
energy is religious belief, one wonders how consistent its
consequences can be. Consistency is, after all, the yardstick for
success in foreign policy.
Inconsistency in Foreign Policy
Several inconsistencies are noticeable today in Turkish foreign
Moral inconsistencies: Turkey is critical of Israel on moral
grounds because of its actions in Gaza. Turkey is correct in making
these criticisms. But you do not see Turkey taking the same stance
towards Sudan for its crimes against humanity in Darfur. The
government is a major supporter of Sudan, let alone condemning it.
The government again keeps silent in the face of crimes committed by
Hamas against humanity.
Legal inconsistencies: The incidents in China where Uighurs have
been killed have been described by the government as "genocide."
Meanwhile, Turkey has been trying to explain to the world why the
events of 1915 should not be defined as genocide. One should not
use the term "genocide" lightly.
Political imbalances: Turkey tried to act as an intermediary
between Russia and Georgia during the war between the two states.
However, Sarkozy had already brokered a ceasefire. Turkey's
attempts were futile in the end because of its lack of coordination
with the West. Turkey's proposal for a Peace and Cooperation Pact
in the Caucasus was never realized.
One can't say that Turkey seeks balance among the Arabs in the
Middle East. While remaining aloof from pro-Western countries like
Egypt and Tunisia, it has close ties with anti-West countries like
Qatar and Sudan.
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Another example for Turkey's inconsistent foreign policy is to
recognize Hamas as the legal representative of the Palestine people,
while viewing Mahmud Abbas, recognized by many states as the
president of Palestine, as the leader of an illegal government.
A State Outside the Western Alliance
There is no visible change in Turkey's relations with the West.
But, the problem is Turkey doesn't behave like a member of the
Western Alliance. Other then talking with the U.S. about security
issues, Turkey doesn't have a foreign policy dialog with Western
countries. Islamic sensitivity in Turkey exceeds its former regard
for the Western democracies. This attitude doesn't make Turkey more
independent; it only estranges Turkey from the Western Alliance.
Combined with the mistakes the West makes concerning Turkey, this
creates a vicious circle, which affects Turkey's ties to the West.
Turkey will gradually slip away from the West. It will be wrong to
consider foreign policy independent from domestic policy. In an
environment where the majority doesn't want Jewish or Christian
neighbors, it is not surprising to see the priorities of Turkish
foreign policy slipping towards the Islamic states. During the AKP
administration, there has been a transformation of Turkey's foreign
policy that tracks the public opinion.
What kind of Turkey do we want to see? A secular, democratic and
modern Turkey, integrated with the West or a Middle Eastern state
where public life is organized according to authoritarian religious
rules and everything depends on what the leader says? It is
necessary to make a choice. I wonder if the choice has already been